Collaborative study of Senufo arts—one of the most celebrated styles of so-called historical or traditional arts of Africa throughout the twentieth century—has led us to rethink what we thought we knew. When we first launched our collaborative, in-progress, born-digital publication project now known as Mapping Senufo: Art, Evidence, and the Production of Knowledge, Gagliardi and her colleague Constantine Petridis sought to create a digital map showing West African locations linked to individual objects labeled as Senufo. The mismatch between precision that pins on a digital map implied and uncertainty in source data prompted us to reconsider the nature of our evidence and shift the project’s focus to a study of the quality and character of information about Senufo arts. Our attention to digital data has revealed ambiguous details and sparked reimagining of the form of the scholarly monograph with interventions from a visual artist. Through discussion of ongoing research related to the project, Gagliardi will demonstrate ways in which embrace of digital tools and methods may direct focus back on analog documents and objects as well as their original contexts of production and the research process in productive ways.
Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi is Associate Professor of Art History at Emory University. She has conducted extensive archival, field, and object-centered research in Africa, Europe, and North America. She published her first book Senufo Unbound: Dynamics of Art and Identity in West Africa (2014) in conjunction with a major international exhibition organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Organised by Dr Stephen Whiteman (The Courtauld) and Dr Austin Nevin (The Courtauld) as part of their Frank Davis Memorial Lecture series titled ‘Art History Futures: At the Junction of the Digital and Material Turns’.